MOTORISTS in Sheffield are spending less time in rush-hour traffic than they did two years ago - but experts have warned it could be because fewer people are in work.
A new report has revealed commuters spent 29 hours a year at a standstill in 2011 - compared with 31.8 hours in 2010.
It means motorists in Sheffield are sitting idly behind the wheel for half an hour a week.
The figures were revealed by traffic information firm INRIX Europe, which found nationally traffic jams fell by 11 per cent.
Tim Hale, chairman of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s Transport Forum said: “Congestion in Sheffield is noticeably lower than eight other metropolitan areas of the UK - which on the face of it, is good. “My suspicion is it’s because the local economy has been less buoyant, and that is actually worrying.
“Rising fuel costs will also have had an impact. The Chamber is working with other stakeholders to try to improve the amount of business activity in the city so, perversely, if the congestion figure rises next year, that should actually be a sign of an improving local economy.”
Stuart Marks, INRIX Europe senior vice-president, said: “Traffic congestion is an excellent economic indicator telling us whether people are going to work, businesses are shipping products and consumers are spending money.”
Commuter Janet Hutton, who drives from Bents Green to Attercliffe for work, said: “Things may be improving, but it can still be a nightmare at rush hour.
“The best journey time to work is when the children are on school holidays and you can fly from Ecclesall to Attercliffe. Mondays and Fridays tend to be quieter but the rest of the week is a nightmare.
“The worst area is Ecclesall Road.”
Sheffield came joint ninth in a UK league table of the worst UK cities for traffic congestion.
London was first - with drivers wasting 66 hours, Greater Manchester second, where motorists sat for 45 hours a year and Liverpool third with 39 hours.
Meanwhile, Sheffield cycling group Pedal Ready said it had seen a huge increase in the number of city residents cycling to work.
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for business, skills and development said: “Tackling congestion is high on our list of priorities and we are always looking at innovative ways we can help make journeys easier.
“The two simplest ways are to build new roads to take extra traffic or removing cars from the road, neither of which we can do. “Instead we try to get the best out of our road network.
“In an ideal world we’d have no traffic jams, but, let’s be honest, that utopia doesn’t exist.
“What we do is make sure we get the best out of our network using urban traffic control, traffic-busting measures, public transport and other road schemes to help keep the traffic flowing and people on the move.”
A South Yorkshire Passenger Transport spokesman said: “There are more people using the trams and the train but the number of people using the buses is still showing a decline overall.”
The survey found the worst time to drive in Sheffield was Fridays between 3pm and 4pm.
A separate survey carried out in 2011 found Sheffield was the 56th least car-friendly place of 65 English towns and cities.
3-4pm - Worst time to drive in Sheffield.
29 - Number of hours Sheffield drivers sat in traffic jams in 2011.
30 - Number of minutes wasted by drivers each week in 2011.
66 - Number of hours drivers in London sat in traffic in 2011.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are Sheffield’s roads congested? Email: email@example.com.